How Akira Kurosawa’s Movies Inspired Two Episodes of The Mandalorian

George Lucas was inspired by many things when he wrote his first Star Wars script; Flash Gordon, John Carter of Mars, Robbie the Robot, and legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's movie Hidden Fortress was one of his biggest inspirations.

Rian Johnson gave it a go with The Last Jedi, and then came the turn of Jon Favreau and his collaborators to make some new Star Wars – and his show The Mandalorian is a beautiful format change for Star Wars – the first live-action show – but one that rings true to what came before.

This means players like Favreau and Dave Filoni have been faithful to the roots of Star Wars and incorporated a great deal of that Kurosawa-ness into The Mandalorian. This has been in the form of themes, nods, and homages to the movies themselves.

The man who plays Mando, Pedro Pascal, said that his character was “built on the iconic presence of the Man With No Name in the Sergio Leone movies, played by Clint Eastwood, [and] the lone samurai [Toshiro Mifune] in Akira Kurosawa. It's aesthetically and very, very much narratively built in that kind of iconic lone gunslinger/sword-wielder.”

So while the wild wild west side of The Mandalorian is excellent, let's look at the influence of director Kurosawa on two episodes.

Season One's Episode 4: Sanctuary

Episode 4 begins with a small farming community. After establishing their quiet and defenseless ways, some mysterious raiders attack the community destroying their property and stealing their harvest.

The Mandalorian quickly becomes the savior of the people with a bit of help from Cara Dune.
This plotline is now a Hollywood cliche and originated from Kurosawa's 1961 Yojimbo. The title character is presented as a lost warrior who has become a soldier of fortune. He is the archetypal “rōnin” – a masterless wanderer from a tribe of proud warriors with a rich heritage. Hollywood has often translated this character into a cowboy – think John Wayne, and you'll find a film that does the same.

Eastwood's A Fistful of Dollars was effectively an unlicensed remake of Yojimbo. Yojimbo translates to “bodyguard,” which sums up both the episode and Din Jarin's role in protecting baby Grogu.

Season Two: Chapter 12: The Jedi

kurosawa references in the Mandalorian
Images Courtesy of Lucasfilm and Toho

This is more of a direct rinse and repeat of the wandering Samuari plot from Kurosawa's movies and Yojimbo again.

Director David Filoni mines this basic plot for “The Jedi,” producing a classic Star Wars moment.

In this episode, Mando mirrors the role of Toshiro Mifune’s wandering ronin. At the same time, Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth and Ahsoka fight each other to determine the fate of Calodan as the crime lords did in Kurosawa’s movie.

The movie also homages two obvious moments, shot by cinematographer Baz Idoine (who won an Emmy for his work on season one) – check out the above meme. Lucas did this himself in the Revenge of the Sith, using Yoda to mimic Kambei Shimada’s motion in the Seven Samurai, another Kurosawa movie.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance Inspired Mando and Grogu's Relationship

Another interesting Japanese movie inspired the Mandalorian to make his way through the universe with Baby Grogu in tow. Released as Shogun Assassin in the United States, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance follows a rogue samurai who travels around Edo period Japan with his three-year-old son.
Sounds familiar, right?
shogun assassin
Image Courtesy of New World Pictures

Sub out the cart for Baby Yoda's protective cradle, and you have the same scene.

grogu and mando
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Mandalorian is similar to Shogun Assassin in that each episode features a new adventure for the Beskar-coated bounty hunter and baby Grogu.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Editor in Chief at Wealth of Geeks | + posts

Paul Rose Jr is the Editor in Chief of Wealth of Geeks & manages the Associated Press program for The Insiders network. He has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for InfuzeMag and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing or editing on Wealth of Geeks, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.